Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert

8 March 2016

For horn players, tackling a Mahler symphony is the equivalent of running a marathon. It requires extensive training to build your stamina. And like preparing for a marathon, it is difficult to find the time and energy to practice doing the whole thing before the day itself. Regular readers may remember me writing here in 2011 about preparing to play Mahler's 'Symphony No 6' with the Northampton Symphony Orchestra. The First Symphony by Gustav Mahler is not quite such an enormous undertaking as the Sixth but it is still a monumental challenge. I've played through the final movement almost every day for the past few weeks in an attempt to build enough stamina to survive its glorious finale. Last Saturday was the day of reckoning, with the NSO concert taking place at St Michael's Church, Northampton, conducted by John Gibbons. The concert also featured the beautiful 'Piano Concerto' by Alexander Scriabin in which we accompanied the amazing young Russian pianist Vavara Tarasova. It was a stunning performance of a lovely piece which has much in common with the piano concertos of Chopin (and, I thought, some echoes of Rachmaninov). Our performance of Mahler 1 seemed to go really well, with beautifully delicate woodwind solos, some fine off-stage trumpet fanfares and a great double bass solo by Matthew Jackson at the beginning of the slow movement. And then we reached the finale and it was thrilling to be one of eight horn players standing with bells raised for the final bars. In the end it felt like we just about managed to fall over the marathon finishing line, exhilarated, exhausted and gasping for breath. It was a brilliant experience but one I would be happy not to repeat for a while!

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